Dr. David Swann Member Statement, May 25th

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann rose in the Legislature today to deliver the following statement:

“The opiate death crisis is unprecedented, ripping apart families of all socio-economic groups, including First Nations.

“The continual and dramatic increases in opioid deaths since 2013, are extremely saddening given that they are preventable. While we see increased investment it is not clear that mental health experts are leading, what the overall strategy is, and how current efforts are being evaluated since there has been no analysis and public report.

“Last year, we had 363 deaths due to fentanyl. And in the first three months of this year, 113 Albertans lost their lives, just to fentanyl – a 61% increase in deaths over the same period in 2016.

“We are starting to see the same disturbing trends here as in BC, but without acknowledging why we continue to lose ground even after 4 years. Nor have we chosen to call this a public health emergency to mobilize all related resources. This is a mistake.

“B.C.’s declaration of a public health state of emergency led to resources being mobilized through the Health Ministry across government departments and between all stakeholders in a co-ordinated plan with monthly reporting on what is working and what is not.

“Alberta struggles to report quarterly on fentanyl and other opiate deaths. BC embraced early harm reduction measures while we have yet to see a single safe injection site in Alberta.

‘Naloxone kits are undoubtedly saving lives, and the Associate Minister yesterday admitted there were 1130 life-saving doses of naloxone given in the first 3 months of this year – that’s 13 near-deaths every day in Alberta! Clearly we are not getting ahead of this devastation.

“Wait times have improved for opiate replacement therapy but outside Edmonton and Calgary people seeking help continue to wait.

“Numbers are not enough. There is a troubling lack of analysis of what changes are needed and where for an accurate picture of this epidemic.

“Strong, new leadership from a mental health and addictions expert is needed who can focus and oversee an evidence-based and coordinated plan and overcome the silos.

“This terribly stigmatized illness needs a new approach and now is the time for the government to admit its approach isn’t working.

“This is the most important and preventable public health crisis of our time and the lives of our children- all Albertans- depend on us getting this right.”